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Allergic rhinitis — better known as hay fever — can be a very unpleasant experience. The sufferer's nostrils become inflamed, causing the nose, eyes, throat or mouth to feel itchy. Other symptoms that can develop over time include congestion, coughing and headaches. There are essentially four types of allergic rhinitis treatment on the market: antihistamines, decongestants, corticosteroids and allergy shots. Understanding the differences between treatments should help allergy sufferers choose the best option.
Antihistamines typically come in tablet or capsule form and are mainly intended for mild to moderate symptoms. Many antihistamines are available over the counter and are relatively inexpensive, although some of the newer varieties do require a prescription. Some antihistamines cause a mild level of drowsiness and are intended for nighttime use. Others cause no drowsiness and are fine to use during the daytime.
Decongestants are another type of allergic rhinitis treatment designed for mild to moderate symptoms. They are similar to antihistamines and come in tablets, capsules and liquids. Decongestants help to relieve allergy symptoms by reducing swelling inside the nose which allows air to flow more freely. Some are available over the counter, while others require a prescription.
Corticosteroids, or nasal sprays, are a type of allergic rhinitis treatment that is usually intended for moderate to somewhat severe cases. They tend to work quicker than antihistamines and decongestants, and are preferred by many allergy sufferers as a result. A variety of forms of corticosteroids are available, most of which require a prescription. Consulting a physician is a good idea and is often required before attempting to use a nasal spray product.
Allergy shots — also known as immunotherapy — are usually the last resort for allergic rhinitis treatment. Immunotherapy is reserved for the most severe cases and is used only if the previous treatments have proven to be ineffective. Typically, the dose of injections the patient receives increases over time with the goal of blocking allergies from infiltrating the patient's immune system. Allergy shots are usually given on an ongoing basis and should provide a substantial amount of relief.
In addition to medical treatments, those who suffer from allergic rhinitis are encouraged to take some preventative steps to avoid flare ups. Some preventative measures include keeping windows and doors closed during allergy season and investing in an air purifier. Allergy sufferers should also try to keep their environment as dust and dander free as possible.